by: Anthony Zangrillo
First, a little background about me before I delve into Daredevil. My name is Siddharth Srikanth, and I’ve been reading comics for a little over 3 years, mainly comics belonging to Marvel and Image. I’ve been reading Daredevil for most of my comics period, beginning with Mark Waid’s recent run on the character. I’ve also gone back and read the other classic Daredevil runs, such as Frank Miller’s legendary turn writing the character as well as parts of Brian Michael Bendis’s run as well. I know Daredevil, as well as the rest of characters who will eventually be getting their own shows courtesy of Netflix. If you are going to be watching any of the Marvel shows (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, or Iron Fist), I highly recommend reading their respective comics beforehand to get a feel for the characters and how they’ll work with one another. I’m going to be writing these sort of reviews/impressions/geeking out for each episode of Daredevil’s 13 episode run. Warning, since I’ll be talking about the episode, beware of spoilers. So, let’s get to the episode at hand.
EPISODE 1: “INTO THE RING”
Daredevil’s pilot “Into the Ring” might be one of the best pilots I have ever seen. The episode begins with the shortest superhero backstory I’ve ever seen in a comic-book based TV show or film. It shows us how Matt Murdock got his powers and his blindness in about 5 minutes. So, immediately, you know you’re not going to be getting a 13 hour origin story about how Matt Murdock became Daredevil. And thank goodness for that. Origin stories are getting a bit tired now, and I’m more than happy to finally see a TV show dedicating its first season to something other than how a superhero was born. But I digress. Immediately after, we transition to a shot of a docks with some women being dragged into a shipping container, as part of a human trafficking ring. This is where Daredevil shows its hand to the audience, letting them know this isn’t going to be a PG-13 take on the character. It will go to some very dark places and heretofore untouched parts of the MCU e.g. drugs, sex, corruption, etc. There is a lot more blood, visceral action, and (surprisingly enough) nudity than the average Marvel media project. Anyway, after the women are thrown into the container and the evil dude laughs menacingly, we get our first shot of Daredevil. Now, his costume looks like something he threw together as it consists of some skinny jeans, a black shirt, and a bandana around his head. This makes sense within the logic of the show, as this is basically Daredevil: Year One. The show’s first fight scene is still plenty brutal, featuring a lot of quick cuts (one of the cardinal sins of modern action movies) with the occasional long take.
The purpose of a first episode is twofold; it must, first, introduce our protagonists to the audience and, second, give the audience a reason to stay for the rest of the season. “Into the Ring” is a showcase for Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, and Karen Page. Matt & Foggy are old friends, something that shows a lot during their banter-filled conversation. Foggy, as played by Elden Henson, is also the comic relief of the show, giving us these short moments of comic respite before heading back into the darkness. Karen Page, as played by Deborah Ann Woll of True Blood fame, is also pretty good in her role, with her intro scene showing off her terror at being put in a horrible situation. Matt Murdock, as played by Charlie Cox from Stardust and Downton Abbey, shows off the typical sense of stoicism and heroism of a hero, but plays up his vulnerability in a scene set in a confessional where he recounts his memories of his dad. Our main trio is introduced rather well, but our antagonists suffer a bit. We only really see one of the show’s Big Bads, Wesley, as played by Toby Leonard Moore. Wesley is your archetypical right-hand man; menacing, cerebral, and reliable. We also get to meet Leland Owlsley (Bob Gunton), whose design in no way resembles his mice-eating comic counterpart, which is probably for the better. Hopefully, we see more of them in the future. As for goal #2, Daredevil gives the audience a rather unusual reason to stay. See, plot-wise, the first episode just sets up the pieces, so not much is really accomplished and there’s no cliffhanger. But, the sheer atmosphere that’s created is engaging and a real highlight for the show. The city of Daredevil is decked in dark blues, yellow, and red. It feels grimy, almost evocative of a pulp fiction novel or classic noir. As a fan of the comics, I was pleased to see the prominence of yellow and red, also known as the classic costume colors for Daredevil. But, it’s the evocative atmosphere that gives the audience its reason to tune in because even at the end of this episode, I found myself wanting to stay more in the world that Steven DeKnight and Marvel had created. It feels like the setting leapt out of the pages of Frank Miller and Frank Janson’s run, and the lighting straight out of Alex Maleev’s color palette.
I know this is a lot to write for just one episode, but I guess following installments in this will be shorter and talk about a more diverse array of subjects. So, in summary, if you are a comics fan, chances are, you’re already on episode 3 or 4 of this. If you aren’t, give this a shot, particularly if you liked The Wire.